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August 15, 2012 – MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala., United States – Dr. Steven Leath, president of Iowa State University (ISU), was elected to a three-year term on the IFDC board of directors, effective August 1, 2012.

“On behalf of IFDC I welcome Dr. Leath to its board of directors,” said IFDC’s President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Amit H. Roy. “He brings expertise in plant science and proven executive leadership abilities. In addition, Iowa State University is an exceptional leader in research and extension and its graduates serve across the developing world.”

Leath became the 15th president of ISU in January 2012. Trained as a plant scientist, he served at three universities in teaching, research and economic development posts en route to the ISU presidency. Leath came to Iowa State from North Carolina where he was a faculty member, research program leader and high-level administrator with the University of North Carolina system and North Carolina State University (NCSU).

ISU is home to five U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research laboratories; the nation’s finest genomic-based agricultural breeding programs; and world-renowned plant science and bio-economy institutes. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has a record of 150 years of excellence in agricultural research, education and extension. Key focus areas include food and human nutrition research and preserving natural resources for future generations.

At an open forum on the ISU campus following his selection announcement, Leath stated, “I’m going to spend a lot of time making this land-grant university greater than it already is.” Leath further stated that he wanted to create a viable Iowa State brand and strengthen the sense of community both in the United States and abroad.

From 2007 to 2012, Leath was vice president for research for the University of North Carolina (UNC) General Administration. In that position, he promoted research and sponsored programs across the full spectrum of academic disciplines and interdisciplinary activities carried out by UNC’s 16 university campuses. He increased levels of external support from federal, state and private sources, and worked closely with campus research administrators to develop research and sponsored program activity to support the mission of each campus. In 2012, the UNC campuses attracted nearly $1.4 billion in competitive research grants and contracts, primarily from the federal government. Leath also oversaw UNC’s inter-institutional centers and the North Carolina Arboretum, and was one of the leaders in such highly successful public-private partnerships as the North Carolina Centennial Campus, North Carolina Research Campus, Research Triangle Park and the David H. Murdock Research Institute, which he helped to establish and led as chief executive officer until joining Iowa State.

Leath joined the faculty of NCSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1985 as a plant pathologist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) unit based on the NCSU campus. He was named professor and research leader of the unit in 1998, then spent time as acting national grain crops program leader for USDA/ARS in Washington, D.C. He returned to NCSU in 2001 as a professor and assistant director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service (NCARS), was promoted to associate director in 2003 and was named NCARS director and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2005.

Leath earned a B.S. in plant science from Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree in plant science from the University of Delaware and a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. After receiving his Ph.D., he spent one year as an extension plant pathologist in Illinois. During his research career, Leath published nearly 100 scientific articles on plant disease resistance, plant pathology, plant breeding and related fields.

Leath serves on the Iowa STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Advisory Council and is a member of the executive committee of the Greater Des Moines Committee’s Capital Crossroads Implementation Committee, a board member of the Iowa 4-H Foundation and a member of the Iowa Business Council. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Crop Science Society of America and American Phytopathological Society.

M. Peter McPherson is president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and chair of the IFDC board of directors. He stated, “Dr. Steven Leath has had an exemplary career and is now leading an outstanding university. I am certain his expertise will be an asset to the IFDC board of directors for years to come.”

IFDC is a public international organization, governed by an international board of directors with representation from developed and developing countries. The nonprofit Center is supported by various bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, private foundations and national governments.

IFDC focuses on increasing and sustaining food security and agricultural productivity in developing countries through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound crop nutrient technology and agribusiness expertise.


IFDC Contacts:
Courtney Greene
257/381-6600 ext. 357

Areas of Expertise: